The contemporary American cuisine served at Chicago’s S.K.Y. restaurant is rightly acclaimed. This roasted carrot and parsnip salad they shared with us is fairly simple, yet artfully crafted, from the careful cooking of the root vegetables to the simple but stunning sultana vinegar used to dress them. Fresh grapes, spiced pecans, and blue cheese add beautifully bright pops of color, texture, and flavor. If you have trouble finding them in local stores, you can buy both the smoked sea salt and smoked hot paprika online.
For the roasted vegetables:
- 2 pounds carrots, scrubbed and cut into 5-inch pieces
- 2 pounds medium-sized parsnips, scrubbed and cut into 5-inch pieces
- kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- scant 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- scant 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
For the sultana vinegar:
- 1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
For the spiced pecans:
- 1 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
- scant 1/2 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
For finishing the salad:
- 1/2 cup red grapes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1/2 cup green grapes, cut in half lengthwise
- 4 ounces blue cheese, brought to room temperature, cut into shards or crumbled, depending on texture and firmness
- Maldon sea salt
- fresh chervil, snipped
To make the roasted carrots and parsnips:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Place the carrots and parsnips in a large pot, cover with water by at least an inch, and season generously with salt (as you would for pasta). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, transfer to paper towels, and air dry for five minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil and black pepper. Add the air-dried vegetables and toss to coat, then transfer to the parchment lined pan in an even layer. Roast for 15 to 22 minutes or until caramelized, turning and flipping as necessary to ensure everything is caramelizing evenly. Remove from the oven, fold in the thyme, and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and keep at room temperature until ready to serve.
To make the sultana vinegar:
- Combine the golden raisins and cider vinegar in a small pot and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. When cool, puree in a blender until completely smooth. Pass through a fine mesh sieve into a squeeze bottle or small bowl. You can do this while the vegetables are roasting, or ahead of time.
To make the spiced pecans:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (or lower the oven and allow to come down to that temperature if making these as soon as the vegetables are done). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. In a mixing bowl, combine the pecans, corn syrup, smoked sea salt, and smoked hot paprika. Spread evenly on the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool at room temperature, then separate nuts and cut in half crosswise. If not using immediately, store in an airtight container to protect against humidity.
To assemble the salad:
- Briefly warm the carrots and parsnips if completely cooled, then transfer to a serving platter or divide among 8 plates. Evenly dot with the red and green grape halves, then sprinkle with the blue cheese. Dress well with the sultana vinegar and a good quality olive oil, and top with the spiced pecans. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and chervil to finish. Serve immediately.